Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Let's Knife!

Baltimore is quickly surpassing Philly as my favorite destination if I must travel to see a band. Of course, I'd love to see more bands come to Lancaster. Some do, but the trade off we make here in south central PA is that Harrisburg, Philly, Baltimore, New Jersey and - in a pinch - NYC are all within easy access. As a result, the pickin's are pretty good around here when it comes to shows - you've surely gathered that from earlier posts!

Last night I was back in what seems to be the general go-to place in Baltimore, The Ottobar, to see the awesome Shonen Knife, who are currently on their 30th anniversary tour.  What a great night of music it was:  three opening bands plus Shonen Knife, and only ten bucks to get in - wot a bargain!

Now, history dictates that once you go past two opening acts you're getting into questionable territory as far as band quality, especially when all of the openers are local bands.  Baltimore, however, has a pretty decent scene going these days, and in last night's case the rule did not apply.  The openers were great - not a clinker in the lineup!

I admit to going out on a limb saying that about The Degenerettes, who were up first, only because by the time we arrived we really only caught the last two and a half songs of their set - not really enough to make a true assessment, but what we heard was very good.

I can say without reservation, however, that the next band, Plurals, were outstanding! With five band members perched on the not-so-roomy Ottobar stage, Plurals blasted out a nifty set of originals and one cover (of sorts): in the midst of their poppy-punky wall of sound, I caught myself realizing I recognized some lyrics but couldn't place them at first.  It took another cycle through the verse before I realized I was hearing the words to The English Beat's "Save It For Later," or at the very least a close approximation.  The one drawback to Plurals' set was that the vocals were mixed a bit too low. Still, this is a band I want to hear more of.  Couldn't find a website for them (with a name like Plurals, Google doesn't help much; searching "Plurals band" leads me to a similarly named trio from Lansing, MI) and their Facebook page is not a band page but rather a regular profile. 

The Quarantines
The final opening act was The Quarantines, an excellent pop-punk trio with a curious tendency to sing about robots.  Their set was loud, rockin' fun, and they were clearly the most polished of the opening acts.  I am kicking my self today for not picking up their record at the merch table last night!  Great stuff.  The Quarantines are a band I think we'll all be hearing more of in the future.

Shonen Knife
A little before 11:00, Shonen Knife hit the stage, opening with an enthusiastic Japanese-language version of Cheap Trick's standard set-opener, "Hello There" (here redone as "Konichiwa").  Over the next forty-five minutes or so, they treated us to a sampling of their best tunes. "Devil House," "ESP," "I Am A Cat," "Super Group," "Redd Kross" and more were greeted with knowing cheers from the crowd, and the girls seemed to be having a blast onstage.  After a searing run-through of "Antonio Baka Guy," Shonen Knife left the stage and left the crowd chanting their name and begging for more.

The Osaka Ramones!
After a few moments they returned, but now they were dressed in leather jackets and jeans.  No longer Shonen Knife, they were now in full character as The Osaka Ramones (a name they played under for a Ramones tribute concert many years back, and also the title of their newest CD in tribute to the Ramones.  Legend has it that Joey Ramone himself would always refer to Shonen Knife as "The Osaka Ramones").  With bassist Ritsuko Taneda playing the Dee Dee Ramone role, counting off each song "1-2-3-4" in quick succession, they ran through "Blitzkrieg Bop," "Beat On The Brat," "The KKK Took My Baby Away," "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker," "I Wanna Be Sedated," and "Pinhead" before closing with "Rock & Roll High School."  All the while, the crowd pogo'd and sang along.  Somewhere, Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee were smiling.

It was a stellar night, start to finish, and I highly recommend seeing any of these bands if you get the chance.  Shonen Knife, of course, was much fun, but it was nice to be so pleasantly surprised by Plurals and The Quarantines as well.  As usual, additional pics will be up on our Facebook page later today.

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